Kerron Clement delivered another gold for the U.S. on Thursday after the “awesome hour” of the night before and the women’s 4×100-meter relay team ran alone in a race that looked just like a practice session, just with one mighty difference: A place in the Olympic final was on the line.
The United States’ gold run continued early on Day 7 of the track and field competition with Clement’s first individual gold at the Olympics. Even when things could have gone really bad, with the relay team failing to get the baton around in the original race, there was a second chance.
The defending Olympic champions successfully protested that Allyson Felix was bumped in her handover in the morning race, got another go at qualifying in a re-run in the evening, and secured a place in the medal decider. They made sure by running 41.77 seconds, with just the clock and the crowd for company, to knock China out the final.
“We were laughing and joking out there,” said English Gardner, who ran the last leg. “Our coach said before we went out there, `It’s just like practice, just the whole world will be watching. Be patient, stay patient with each other, and just do your job.”
Ashton Eaton briefly took time off his job in the decathlon, which he was leading on near world-record pace, to congratulate Clement as his teammate knelt exhausted in the midday sun after the 400-meter hurdles final.
“I felt somebody … I didn’t know who it was. I was on the ground, exhausted,” Clement said. “I’m sure when I get back to the village, I’ll thank him.”
With three full days of competition to come after Thursday, the United States has 20 medals in track and field, including 6 gold. In one burst Wednesday night, dubbed the “awesome hour” by long jumper Tianna Bartoletta, the U.S. team added six medals in around 60 minutes.
Hurdler Clement was so confident of a first Olympic individual gold, he had his mother, Claudette, bring a star-spangled banner from home.
“We had a flag at home and I told her to bring the flag. I knew I was going to win,” Clement said.
However tough his task was, it was made easier when Javier Culson, the 2012 Olympic bronze medalist from Puerto Rico, was disqualified for a false-start. Clement has been decorated enough, with two world championship gold medals, but the Olympic title had eluded him. Now he has gold, yet another one for the buoyant U.S. team, to go with his 400 silver and 4×400 relay gold from the 2008 Beijing Games.
Boniface Mucheru Tumuti of Kenya took silver, 0.05 behind, and Cuban-born Yasmani Copello of Turkey, the European champion, won bronze in 47.92. Four of the finishers produced national-record times, including Tumuti and Copello.
Eaton is expected to deliver more gold for the United States when the decathlon wraps up with the javelin and the 1,500 meters in the night session.
The pole vault provided some high anxiety as Olympic and world champion Eaton twice went to the third and last attempt at lower heights before he came through with 5.20 meters. It made for a score of 7,370 points with two events to go. Kevin Mayer of France jumped a personal best of 5.40 to hold Eaton’s lead to 124 points.
Without Usain Bolt, Jamaica’s relay team did its bit to help the superstar’s quest for an historic triple-triple at the Olympics. With Bolt focusing on the 200 final _ part 2 of 3 for him in Rio _ the Jamaicans qualified for the 4×100 final behind heat-winner Japan.
Veteran Asafa Powell just wanted to make sure that the Jamaicans didn’t do anything stupid and Bolt got the chance to run in the final on Friday.
“I was a lot more concerned about the start and getting the baton around. I mean, these guys, they’re pretty excited,” Powell said. “That’s what gave me a bit of comfort, that they really wanted it so bad. There was some pressure to make it to the finals.”